A while back, I blogged about BookWise, a multilevel marketing scheme focusing on books. (That post earned me some nasty comments from BookWise Associates. I daresay what follows will earn me a few more.)
BookWise, now a little over a year old, has just launched BookWise Publishing, which offers a program for aspiring writers called WriteWise. "Do you have a book in you? Have you dreamed of becoming a published author?" asks the WriteWise brochure. "Realize your aspiration of writing, publishing, and marketing a bestselling book through WriteWise from BookWise Publishing."
How does it work? Here's a list of program benefits, from the website of one of the BookWise Associates who is offering to sign writers up for the program (there are numerous similar WriteWise websites, many of which employ identical templates). These include a variety of mentoring services (including a two-day "intense" seminar--the qualifications of the seminar staff are...interesting); guaranteed publication of your book by BookWise Publishing; various editing, design, and promotional services (you can judge cover design quality here); 50 softcover copies of your book; and endorsement by BookWise founders Richard Paul Evans and Robert G. Allen.
If you think this sounds too good to be true, you're right. Here's the bottom line:
For anyone who is a serious writer, you will know that the benefits described above could easily cost you $20,000 - $30,000 from individuals far less knowledgeable or connected than Richard Paul Evans and Robert G. Allen.....
However, this program will NOT cost you tens of thousands of dollars.... for you to become a SERIOUS published author in 2008 the cost to you is......
So...basically, WriteWise is vanity publishing.
And that's not all. WriteWise isn't just a pay-to-publish program for writers--it's an income opportunity for BookWise Associates. For every participant they sign up, Associates get a $1,000 commission. That's some hefty dough for encouraging aspiring writers to vanity publish.
(There's actually some discrepancy regarding program costs. While the websites linked above all say that it's $5,995, the WriteWise brochure says it's $4,995. Why the difference? Price hikes, judging by this entry from the official BookWise blog. The first WriteWise session apparently cost $3,995; for the second, the fee went up to $4,995. I guess we're now on on Round 3.)
There's another twist to the story. For writers accepted into WriteWise, Richard Paul Evans and Robert G. Allen will become their literary agents, receiving, according to the WriteWise brochure, "the standard agency fee [of] 15% of the royalties that an author receives from the publisher." The brochure makes it clear, however, that not every book will be shopped: "...depending upon circumstances, BookWise Publishing may also present your book to other major publishers." In this arrangement, most of the benefit is on the agents' side: they don't actually have to do anything for you (unlike in a normal author-agent relationship), but if they do, they get paid twice.
WriteWise does seem to employ some selectivity--would-be participants are evaluated by a "book producer" (whatever that is), and payment is refunded to those who aren't accepted into the program. This should prevent writers who are completely unpublishable from spending six thousand dollars on a pipe dream. Yet selectivity has a flip side. If only competent writers are chosen, people who actually are publishable may wind up paying a small fortune for a program they don't need.
All of this leaves a very sour taste in my mouth. I'm also seriously non-thrilled by the way that Associates are apparently being encouraged to pitch the program. According to one Associate website, WriteWise "will save you tens of thousands of dollars, and years of frustration and rejection." According to another, "WriteWise is a program that lets you become a published author for considerably less than the standard costs associated with book publishing." Claims yet another, "Traditionally people have spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to get published and now thanks to Write Wise, paying such a high cost is no longer necessary." Such inducements are incredibly misleading and exploitive, playing as they do upon the ignorance of aspiring writers, who may believe that there is always a cost involved with publishing, or that paying to publish is a viable way of starting a writing career.
Of course, BookWise/WriteWise is an MLM scheme. MLM schemes are not really about the product or the customer--they're about building your group of income-generating associates. Given the vulnerability of new authors, however, this seems like an especially unscrupulous way to make a buck.